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Putin Urges Georgia, South Ossetia To Negotiate

20 August 2004 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin today urged Georgia and its separatist region of South Ossetia to renounce violence and settle their standoff through talks.

Addressing reporters after meeting Armenian President Robert Kocharian in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin said only negotiations will allow the sides to find a solution to their sovereignty dispute.

"There can be only one way out: to sit down to the negotiation table; secondly, to be able to reach agreements; and thirdly, to have enough political will to implement those agreements," Putin said.

Putin also said he hoped both parties will have enough "political will" to implement decisions reached by the joint commission in charge of monitoring the 1992 Georgian-South Ossetian peace agreement.

Earlier today, Russia's Foreign Ministry welcomed Georgia's decision to pull back its troops from South Ossetia after this week's violence.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered the pullout yesterday after its forces took possession of strategic outposts near the regional capital Tskhinvali.

Russia had earlier criticized Saakashvili for sending troops into South Ossetia despite earlier pledges to peacefully reassert his authority over the region.